Sexual Assault: More Than Believing

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In light of the recent sexual assault case associated with the US Supreme Court election, Tasha looks at what it all means for the #metoo movement.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you will be aware of Dr Christine Blasey-Ford’s accusation that Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. This case represents a pivotal moment for the #metoo movement and the significance and treatment of sexual assault in society.

Though clearly traumatised, Ford remained composed during her testimony as she recounted the events that “drastically altered [her] life.” Kavanaugh’s own opening statement couldn’t have been more different. Straight off the bat, Kavanaugh appeared every inch the outraged and defensive man you may have expected having seen other powerful men such as Trump deny similar allegations.

Ford’s undeniable credibility, acknowledged even by Fox News and  at one point Trump himself, means that the issue no longer seems to be whether or not a sexual assault survivor is believed but whether or not those in power care enough to do anything about it. Ford stated that though she was “terrified”, she believed that by telling the world her experience she was doing her “civic duty.” So, I pose the question: are US leaders doing theirs?

“The issue no longer seems to be whether or not a sexual assault survivor is believed but whether those in power care enough to do anything about it“

It is clear when comparing the current hearing to that of Anita Hill, who accused a member of the Supreme Court of sexual assault, that Ford is being treated with far greater dignity and respect than Hill was. Hill’s hearing consisted of varying methods of utterly discrediting her, culminating in the coined phrase that Hill was “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.” Ford’s treatment in court now suggests that some progress in the treatment of sexual assault survivors is being made.

This is not to say that the issue of treating survivors with respect has in anyway been completely resolved; Trump proved as much by mocking For during his most recent rally, attacking ‘holes’ in Ford’s testimony. What I personally found most disturbing about Trump’s verbal attack was the raucous laughter from his audience, a disturbing mirror to the “uproarious laughter” of the boys involved in Ford’s assault, which she says she cannot forget.

Trump questioned the lack of a police report at the time, which illustrates that the fear and shame that sexual assault survivors face clearly remains to be understood. Ford said she “was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone”, and with the ridicule she has just suffered at the hands of her President, is it any wonder why?

Though many seemed sympathetic to Ford’s allegations, ultimately, Kavanaugh was elected to the Supreme Court. A man accused of sexual assault is now one of the most powerful men in the country, as Senators decided to rally behind the President’s pick to avoid alienating their voters and risking their chances of re-election.

We must accept the truth: that party loyalty won out over moral courage, and that we still have a long way to go.


Tasha Austen

Image: The Daily Mail